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What is video upscaling to 4k?

Video technologies and resolutions have changed over a period of last few years. The change from analog to digital was dramatic which made the shooting and editing of digital videos so much easier and cheaper.

Next upscaling in video quality happened with advent of the 1080p – HD video. It genuinely made pictures look much better and clearer. I remember seeing the HD demos first time in a shopping center in Central London and there was a ‘wow’ factor associated with those images. Now there is talk (and reality)of 4k video quality.

So why is upscaling to 4k video required?

When the first time TV sets started coming into the market, many models were marketed as ‘HD ready’ rather than ‘full HD’. To understand the concept of upscaling, have a look at any digital photo taken at low resolution. The more you enlarge the image, the more blurry it gets with pixels getting visible.

In theory, what can be done is, the pixel next to an existing one can take the same properties of its neighbouring pixel thereby making the picture slightly fuller. If this is done for all pixels, idea is that the overall picture resolution is being ‘upscaled’. Same upscaling concept applies to video conversion as well.

HDMI to 4K upconversion:

HDMI 1.4 has support for 4K formats (3840×2160 and 4096×2160) corresponding to Digital Cinema projectors, but it is limited to 24/30 fps and 8 bit colour.

This is similar to the “HD ready” tag as the 4K technology gears up.

HDMI 2.0 will raise the speed to 18GB per sec and will support 60fps and 12 bit colour. That will be the coming out of age for 4k.

Why should a consumer be interested in 4k up scaling of video sources?

There are several reasons to be interested:

Access to video sources: Current Blu-ray players and disks are not capable of storing and reproducing a 4k resolution. To give you some idea of the challenge involved,a dual layer Blu-ray has 50GB capacity and can store a 3D film at HD resolution. However, this is very less to store video of 4K resolution (Ultra-HD). So there will be new players required.

What do we do with currently available HD videos and analog content?

Most of your favorite films, TV serials, documentaries are available in HD resolution. And no one is going to remake those in 4k. So there will be technological solutions to use the existing video sources and make believe the user that it is 4k.

Theoretically, it can never be as good as an original 4k source, but can human eye actually differentiate between a native 4k video and an upscaled 4k video? There are reports that suggest exactly that – there are good digital techniques to upscale a video to 4k.

Marseille, which is headquartered in California,is working on the 4k video upscaling technology in collaboration with Technicolor.

4k Electronics of future:

As stated above, there will be a whole step change required in the electronics associated with 4k.There will need to be new generation of Blu-ray players, A/V receivers, TVs, projectors.

What remains to be seen how long before all new gadgets come in; until then, having a technical solution to  video upscaling to 4k will be a workaround.